Paying it forward: GOP honors woman for campaign work

The candidate’s name may be the one on the ballot and the signs, but it takes more than one person to mount a successful political campaign.

Republicans and Democrats looking for votes in Washington County rely on the efforts of volunteers to get their names and messages out to the electorate.

“It’s vital for the candidates,” said Leslie Haas, chairwoman of the Washington County Republican Party. “Obviously, (local candidates) don’t have money for paid staff. And there is a lot of work involved in running for office.”

The Washington County GOP recently honored Marietta resident Anita White with the 2013 Ronald Reagan Volunteer Chairman’s Award. White, the wife of county Commissioner David White, manages phone banks, makes calls herself, works at the party headquarters and does other things to help the local and state candidates she supports emerge victorious on Election Day.

“I’ve never seen anyone who says, ‘Yes, I can do that’ more than Anita White,” Haas said.

White said she’s long been interested in politics, but it wasn’t until her sons were teenagers that her volunteerism shifted from being centered around family activities to the political realm.

Question: When did you first help out with a campaign?

Answer: On a local campaign was the first time David ran (for Marietta City Council), which would have been in 2007. I worked as a volunteer on the Bush campaign in (2000 and) 2004.

Q: What did you do for the Bush campaign?

A: Phone banking, lit drops, running the kids at that point. … My son was 11, and he and his friends wanted to go down and volunteer. They couldn’t go door to door, but they would do the lit drops, and as they got a little older and a little more confident, they would do the phone banking. It was kind of a family thing, and we were down there together, the boys and I.

Q: What did you do for your husband’s campaign?

A: In 2007, I was doing a lot of nail-biting. It was all very new to me. We did a lot of learning, a lot of listening, a lot of praying and a lot of bouncing ideas off of each other and people who had done it before. And then last year in 2012, I served as his campaign manager for county commissioner.

Q: But obviously, you don’t just work with candidates who are family.

A: If I believe in them, I don’t have a lot of money to give them, but I’ll give them all my time and energy.

Q: What’s your favorite thing to do during a campaign?

A: I don’t mind phone-banking, but probably my favorite thing to do is just interacting with people and setting up events. I enjoy setting up fundraising events and making that all work and come together.

Q: How much time do you put in during a campaign season?

A: It’s going to vary greatly if I’m just helping somebody or – like last year on David’s campaign, serving as campaign manager … it’s a full-time job with no pay, full-time plus. But I truly, whether it is cooking for my family, serving my family or a friend or packing shoeboxes (for Operation Christmas Child), I truly am happiest when I am doing something for someone else.

Q: Why is this type of service important to you?

A: I think I learned, I had a very good friend who was sort of a mentor/father to me as an older teenager, who taught me basically my love of country and love of – Ronald Reagan is my hero. And I learned a lot from him that politics starts at the kitchen table. You’re going to make the changes at the local level first. … To me, it’s being an American citizen.

Q: After all the campaigns, have you ever thought about running for office yourself?

A: No way.

Q: Why’s that?

A: I’ve been approached a couple of times. … I would much rather be the guy behind the scenes.

Evan Bevins conducted this interview.